Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Review of Tales and Sketches by Miss Sedgwick,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. VIII: Literary Criticism - part 01 (1902), pp. 160-162


[page 160, continued:]


[Southern Literary Messenger, January, 1836.]

THIS volume includes — A Reminiscence of Federalism — The Catholic Iroquois — The Country Cousin — Old Maids — The Chivalric Sailor — Mary Dyre — Cacoëthes Scribendi — The Eldest Sister — St. Catharine’s Eve — Romance in Real Life — and the Canary Family.

All of these pieces, we believe, have been published before. Of most of them we can speak with certainty — for having, in earlier days, been enamored of their pervading spirit of mingled chivalry and pathos, we cannot now forget them even in their new habiliments. Old Maids — The Country Cousin — and one or two others, we have read before — and should be willing to read again. These, our ancient friends, are worthy of the pen which wrote “Hope Leslie” and “The Linwoods.” “Old Maids,” in spite of the equivocal nature of its title, is full of noble and tender feeling — a specimen of fine writing, involving in its melancholy details what we must consider the beau-ideal of feminine disinterestedness — the ne plus ultra of sisterly [page 161:] devotion. The “Country Cousin” possesses all the peculiar features of the tale just spoken of, with something more of serious and even solemn thought. The “Chivalric Sailor” is full of a very different, and of a more exciting, although less painful interest. We remember its original appearance under the title of “Modern Chivalry.” The “Romance of Real Life” we now read for the first time — it is a tale of striking vicissitudes, but not the best thing we have seen from the pen of Miss Sedgwick — that a story is “founded on fact,” is very seldom a recommendation. “The Catholic Iroquois” is also new to us — a stirring history of Christian faith and martyrdom. The “Reminiscence of Federalism” relates to a period of thirty years ago in New England — is a mingled web of merriment and gloom — and replete with engrossing interest. “Mary Dyre” is a veracious sketch of certain horrible and bloody facts which are a portion of the History of Fanaticism. Mary is slightly mentioned by Sewal, the annalist of “the people called Quakers,” to which sect the maiden belonged. She died in vindicating the rights of conscience. This piece originally appeared in one of our Souvenirs. “St. Catherine’s Eve” is “une histoire touchante qui montre à quel point l’enseignement religieux pouvoit étre perverti, et combien le Clergé étoit loin d’etre le gardien des mæurs publiques” — the tale appertains to the thirteenth century. “Cacoëthes Scribendi” is told with equal grace and vivacity. “The Canary Family” is a tale for the young — brief, pointed and quaint. But the best of the series, in every respect, is the sweet and simple history of “ The Eldest Sister.”

While we rejoice that Miss Sedgwick has thought proper to condense into their present form these evidences [page 162:] of her genius which have been so long floating at random before the eye of the world — still we think her rash in having risked the publication so immediately after “The Linwoods.” None of these “Sketches” have the merit of an equal number of pages in that very fine novel — and the descent from good to inferior (although the inferior be very far from bad) is most generally detrimental to literary fame. Facilis descensus Averni.





[S:1 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Review of Tales and Sketches by Miss Sedgwick)